‘New ideas’ needed to get solved rate up from 5% for serious sex offences

Suffolk's police and crime commissioner, Tim Passmore  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Suffolk's police and crime commissioner, Tim Passmore Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN


Fresh thinking has been called for to address the rate of serious sex crimes solved by police.

Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said he was concerned by the number of victims choosing not to support investigations.

One of the constabulary’s top officers said police should take on board academic evidence of what works in bolstering the confidence of victims and preventing crimes from happening at all.

Mr Passmore was asked to update Suffolk’s Police and Crime Panel on the solved rate of serious sexual offences (SSOs) at its latest quarterly meeting last Friday.

Figures presented to the commissioner’s accountability and performance panel meeting earlier this month showed 5.1% of 2,083 crimes were solved between April 2019 and March 2020 down 1.7% on the three-year average.

A 20% rise in offences against the long-term average was put down to increased compliance with recording practices, with 52.3% of victims unable to support the police investigation.

Suffolk has the highest number of rapes per 1,000 population against its most similar forces, but achieves a comparatively high (56.9%) conviction rate.

During the accountability and performance panel meeting, Assistant Chief Constable Rob Jones said the majority of SSOs took place domestically, adding: “Getting officers schooled in exactly what to do in terms of capturing evidence when allegations are made is incredibly important along with having all the right levels of empathy, belief and support for victims.”

Rather than enforce their way out of the problem, he said police should look at the broader academic response to find the best informed evidence of what does and does not work particularly in the area of domestic offences.

He said communication with crown prosecutors was not always as clear as it should be but could be improved by a newly agreed escalation policy, putting officers in the case in direct contact with an allocated lawyer to build case understanding and relationships.

Mr Passmore also called for “fresh thinking and new ideas”, adding: “I’m really perturbed that such a high number choose not to follow investigations through.

“I think we need to take a bottom-up approach, by listening to victims and voluntary organisations, and all be sufficiently willing to change.”

Last week, it was revealed that the Crown Prosecution Service and police were to scrap controversial “digital strip search” requests to download the contents of rape complainants’ mobile phones.

Mr Passmore called it a step in the right direction, but not a silver bullet towards building confidence in the system.

“We need a really hard focused look at the issues and what we can do about them,” he added.

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